Friday, October 23, 2009

Red Book

Yesterday we came home to find an enormous box leaning against our door. What it contained is a book that's become legendary to people interested in the work and discoveries of Carl G. Jung - a perfect facsimile folio copy of the Red Book.

I'm no scholar and it's probably silly of me to want such a thing but I have been interested in why we are as we are for many years and a number of Jung's books have found a place in my smallish library. This one is something I never expected to see, never mind own. It's staggeringly beautiful with every page illuminated with his fabulous paintings of his personal journey to individuation. No, I don't read German but happily, the latter part of the book is a complete translation of the text.

Who are we as individuals according to Jung? We are the sum of the five archetypes that define our selves in this world. Briefly put:

The Persona is that which we present to the outside world.

The Ego is the centre of consciousness but not the totality of the psyche.

The Shadow is the box for all of that which we have disowned.

The Anima is the female soul image of a man, the Animus the male soul image of a woman. According to Jung a person's soul image is gender opposite.

The Self is simply the centre and the totality of the entire psyche. It is the archetype which contains all the other archetypes and around which they orbit. It's something of a paradox, and extremely difficult for the conscious ego to accept.

The years … when I pursued the inner images were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life.

Everything later was merely the outer classification, the scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then. C.G. Jung

I know the pictures above don't do the book much justice but they're the ones I took earlier today in dim light. You'll know where to find better ones. For me, opening the pages is like seeing the work of William Blake for the first time.

Now all I have to do is wait ten years for my husband to finish reading it.


  1. Wow, I'd love to see that book! And what a coincidence for the other day I read about that book being exhibited here:

  2. marja-leena - I'm so glad you came by and mentioned that exhibit. I just went to the link and saw that by enlarging the illustrations they show you can actually get a sense of just how magnificent they are in reality. I'd love to see the original but I'm very satisfied with what we got since I can take my time. We don't have lots of money but it's well worth the price.

  3. Jung worked with the Nobel laureate
    physicist, Professor W. Pauli, and
    their letters, (1932-1958) were
    published under title - "atom and
    Here we finally get to the 'bottom
    line' - which is, what is reality?
    To Jung and Pauli, it's a matrix,
    since psyche and matter are both
    of a single continuum; a number
    continuum, which means number is
    pre-existent to consciousness.
    As Jung says: It is here that
    the most fruitful field of further
    investigation might be found."

    "man has need of the word, but
    in essence number is sacred."

  4. I think we need to order a copy of this for the library and then we need to make sure it disappears under mysterious circumstances and ends up at my house.

  5. I think Randal is on to something there! ;~)

    Wow, what a prize you have there. That is definitely a book for my personal library.

  6. Randal- I'm sure no one would notice you walking out with that enormous book and trying to squeeze it through the door of the bus. ;-)

    It should would be fun to have a YouTube of that scenario,though. :-D

  7. todd - Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. It occurred to be that according the eastern philosophies the Word is the original sound (or note). It seems only right that music would be the answer.

    randal - We were lucky enough to read the NY Times book review in September and pre-ordered it then from Amazon. I expected it was going to cost $500 or more but was amazed we were able to buy it for much less than the cover price. There's even a picture or two of Cthulu :-)

    liberality - It's for sale at Amazon for $114 but the next shipping date appears to be December. A worthy Christmas present to yourself, for sure.

    nunly - Yeah, it's kind of large for stuffing inside one's coat :-)

  8. Ever since reading Memories Dreams and Reflections back in High School I have dreamed of having access to Jung's Red Diary. Now we can! It is so exciting. What a mind Jung had.

  9. belette - I re-read that one every couple of years just because it's so amazingly wonderful. This one will simply take me years to read but will be worth every minute. I know you're going to be gasping in delight when you see it.

  10. Wow it looks like the Book of Kells, meets Songs of Innocence of Experience, meets the Rubiyyat... ie, It looks utterly beautiful!

  11. Cool susan... That you got something you've wanted. I remember Jung and Gestault, Adler and others from my college years. I took a lot of sociology courses and psychiatry courses, (Freud). I don't remember much of the writings from the textbooks. The hands on experience was always the best part for me, (label me a concrete observer).
    The art looks wonderful. I can see this as a prize possession in that right by itself besides the writings.
    Have wonderful time with it.


  12. jams - You're right but looking at them critically as works of art the Book of Kells and Blake's prints are superior. These are wonderful in a different way.

    spadoman - I had to show some pictures just because they're the essential element for my own tendency toward the visual and tactile. Complex language tends to leave me high and dry too.

  13. i felt that way about a bible i had when i was little. it had thin, holy-feeling pages. it felt like something bad would happen if i tore a page.
    there was a section to write in births, marriages and deaths.
    but of course, as a child, i saw only death. my bird. my dog. my frog. etc.
    the first one was my bird. it didn't have a name. i found it with a broken wing. i asked a neighbor to set the wing, but he said i'd have to pull out all the feathers from the wing first. i tried to pull a feather, but i didn't have the heart to do it.
    so i put the bird in a shoebox on an old towel. all that night, i'd go on the porch and check on him. he was in shock.
    and he was dead the next morning.
    my bible was full of tears.
    i recorded all of them.
    the weird thing is i don't know what happened to it, the bible. it disappeared with my childhood, about when i went off to college.

  14. sera - We had a very old Bible too with onion skin (lovely name) pages that were edged in gold and a soft black leather binding. It disappeared from my parent's house among a number of other things when my mother got sick. I like to think she'd packed it to take with her later. I think one way or another we're always preparing for death even in the midst of life.